Family: Lobeliaceae, Lobelia inflata L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Lobelia, Lobelia inflata L., is typically an annual plant
that reaches a height of one meter. Sometimes called Indian tobacco,
wild tobacco, asthma weed, gagroot, vomitroot, pulseweed, emetic
herb, bladder pod, and low belia, this native North
American plant is poisonous (14.1-28).
The reported life zone of lobelia is 7 to 19 degrees centigrade
with an annual precipitation of 0.7 to 1.3 meters and a soil pH
of 4.8 to 6.8 (4.1-31). The cultivated plant grows well on
a rich, moist loam soil in full sun or partial shade (14.1-29).
Pale blue flowers appear in summer and last until frost. The plant
develops two-celled, capsuled capsule fruits. The leaves,
tops, and fruit are collected during seed formation as the fruit
capsules begin to enlarge (14.1-28).
Several alkaloids are found in the plant. The main alkaloid is
lobeline, and others include lobelidine, lobelanine, nor-lobelaine,
lobelanidine, nor-lobelanidine, lobeline and isolobenine,
as well as fourteen pyridine alkaloids, which give the plant a
total alkaloid content of up to 0.63 percent (11.1-96, 11.1-136,
Lobelia has been used medicinally as an expectorant, emetic, anti-asthmatic,
stimulant, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, diuretic, and nervine.
In addition, the plant or its extracts have served to induce vomiting,
to encourage and to stimulate respiration in cases of general
and pelvic-musculature muscle relaxation during childbirth,
narcotic overdose and newborn infants (11.1-96, 11.1-154).
Lobeline has been of some benefit in commercial preparations of
antismoking products (11.1-96). Lobelia, after it has been
chewed, tastes similar to tobacco and produces effects like those
of nicotine. These similarities account for the plant's having
been called Indian tobacco and for reports of its stimulatory
and depressant activity. Toxicological properties of lobelia include
dizziness, nausea, hypotension, vomiting, stupor, tremors, paralysis,
convulsions, coma, and death (11.1-136, 14.1-35). Use
of lobelia in some products, such as cigarettes and herb teas,
could account for the psychoactive effects of these herbal preparations
Lobelia nicotianaefolia is used in India to treat bronchitis,
asthma, and insect and scorpion bites and to induce nausea and
vomiting (11.1-96). Lobelia erinus L., an annual used
extensively as a garden border plant, has numerous varieties that
vary in foliage color, flower size, and growth habit. The plant
has also been used medicinally to treat cancer, syphilis, and
other venereal diseases (11.1-50). Chinese herbal medicine
employs Lobelia radicans Thunb. to treat sores and abscesses,
poisonous snakebites, tooth abscesses, ascites, and traumatic
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997